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Hicks' Civil Service Prepared Her for Historic Deputy Defense Secretary Job

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To some extent, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks' entire professional life has been preparation for her current job.


Hicks started at the Pentagon when she was 23 years old, as a presidential management intern in 1993 and rose through the policy world to senior executive service.

"I've talked to some of my own NCOs about this," she said in an interview. "I started in service, my own kind of service, probably on a timeline as many of them did."

Three civilians lean over to look at a small device being held in the hand of a service member as other service members watch.
Hicks Visit
Kathleen Hicks, then deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces, listens to Marine Corps Col. Frank Donovan describe a new communication system on board the USS Iwo Jima in 2012. Hicks' visit was focused on learning about the broad capabilities of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group during their Certification Exercise. Hicks has been confirmed by the Senate to be the deputy secretary of defense.
Photo By: Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chad Kiehl
VIRIN: 120207-M-RO494-005

Hicks stayed in civil service through 2006 and segued into the nonprofit world where she served as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. President Barack Obama appointed her as the deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces. She then rose to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

Hicks served on the National Commission for the Future of the Army.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stands facing Kathleen H. Hicks, who holds up her right hand and places her left hand on a book.
Swearing In
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III swears in Kathleen H. Hicks as deputy secretary of defense at the Pentagon, Feb. 9, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210209-D-XI929-1007Y

On February 8, Hicks made history as the first woman to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Secretary of Defense.  

Hicks grew up in a military family and understands what it is like to have a career of service. "I know what the sacrifices are for family members," she said. "And I want them to know that when I get up and come into work now, all of that is at the forefront of my mind. I'm thinking about how we really deliver for them every day, how we use taxpayer dollars, … effectively, to make sure they're as ready and as capable as they can be."

A man in a suit elbow bumps a woman in business dress.
Pentagon Greeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III greets Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks on her first day of work at the Pentagon, Feb. 9, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210209-D-XI929-1005

Hicks holds a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a masters from the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. She received her undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. 

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